Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potato Bites

Warning:  This stuff is Paleo Crack!

This recipe came to us from E.J.’s cousin Sarah, who introduced us to the whole idea of Paleo in the first place.  When she came to visit last November, she instructed us on making this, and now it’s one of our regular Sunday, Cook Day dishes because it is oh so yummy, and reheats well.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium size sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-1″ cubes
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary)
  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the upper third. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and toss to coat the sweet potatoes evenly. Spread in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are golden brown. You don’t need to toss the sweet potatoes while they’re roasting.
  3. Serve warm.  Reheat leftovers in toaster oven for best results.

Paleo for a Crowd

This evening, E.J. and I hosted a group of 8 for dinner and wanted to come up with something Paleo that was also appealing to the group (some are trying the Paleo thing, and some aren’t).

We’ve found that in general, Slow Cooker, BBQ, and Smoker recipes seem to work best for occasions like this.  The beauty of the slow cooker and smoker recipes is that you can literally set and forget… perfect for gatherings where you plan on enjoying visiting with your company for several hours before you feed them.  Tonight, we went with a pulled-pork done in the smoker, and it was fantastic.  First, E.J. coated it with mustard and black pepper and set it to chill for a couple of hours.  Then he put it in around 3 am this morning, and we pulled it out around 6pm.  The result was a fabulously moist and tender pulled pork that didn’t even really need sauce, but we served it with buns, onions, and Bone Suckin Sauce for the folks to eat it alone or in a sandwich.

I served it with baked shoestring sweet potato fries, but instead of olive oil, I used coconut oil  and I used an Italian seasoning blend along with the salt.  We added a nice bagged salad along with some new dressings we found from Bolthouse Farms.  They have soybean oil, which is generally a no-no, but don’t have sugar and still turned out to be incredibly tasty.  We tried the Roasted Garlic and the Creamy Balsamic and they were both hits.

Finally, I offered some of my Paleo desserts in the freezer as a finishing touch and they were also well received.  All in all, it was a highly successful meal, and everyone gave glowing reviews.

 

Recipe: Sherry’s Paleo Chili

Today is Go Texan Day, which is a Houston-area celebration of the kickoff of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.  When I was a kid I wore a school uniform everyday, and Go Texan Day was special because we got to wear cowboy & western gear to school.  Now that I’m an adult, I still like to follow the tradition, and have my donned my ropers for the occasion.

Another cool tradition with the Houston Rodeo is the BBQ & chili cook-off which has been going on this week as the trail-riders head into town.  And if you know anything about Texas chili, you know that it doesn’t have beans (yay for Paleo!).

So here’s my tribute to the Texas chili tradition.  It’s also a favorite for cook-day because it lasts so long in the fridge and freezes well.

Texas Paleo Chili

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 45mins-2hrs
  • Difficulty: medium
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A Paleo interpretation of a classic Texas beef chili, but not too spicy.


Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 med or 1 ½ large onions
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 pkg mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 lbs grass-fed ground beef
  • 2-3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 15oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 small cans (8oz) no sugar tomato sauce (or 1 large 15oz)
  • 1 small can no sugar tomato paste
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 5 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie seasoning
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar


Directions

  1. Sauté onions and bell peppers in coconut oil over med-high heat in a large dutch oven or soup pot.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. About 5 minutes.
  3. Add beef mushrooms, and garlic and cook until brown. About 7  minutes.
  4. Add tomato (all kinds), chicken broth, vinegar and spices.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer as long as you can (15 mins – 1 hour).Gets better as it cooks, and even better reheated next day.

Recipe: Chicken Marsala

So tonight I kind of Iron Chef’d it because I needed to use up mushrooms, chicken tenders, & zucchini… so we had Chicken Marsala (a favorite of E.J’s pre-paleo).  While technically, the wine may not be Paleo, a lot of the alcohol cooks out anyway, so we should probably be ok.

E.J. and I agree that this turned out tasting better than many of the versions I’ve done in the past.  The flavor was awesome, so let’s see if I can remember what I did..

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg chicken tenderloins
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup port (I used a tawny)
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter or ghee
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp arrowroot powder (or less if you want a thinner sauce)

Instructions

  1. In a wide bowl, mix together almond flour, salt, thyme & oregano
  2. In another bowl, beat egg until fluffy
  3. Melt coconut oil in large skillet in med-high heat until hot
  4. Dredge chicken pieces in egg and then coat with almond flour mixture
  5. Arrange chicken in skillet and cook until first side is brown
  6. Turn over chicken and cook for a few minutes until bottom side is starting to set.
  7. Add mushrooms (try to arrange in between the chicken) and pour both wines over chicken and mushrooms.
  8. Cover and saute for 5-8 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
  9. Remove chicken and set aside
  10. Melt butter/ghee and into the sauce
  11. In a small bowl, add arrowroot powder to chicken broth and whisk together until blended.
  12. Add arrowroot mixture to sauce and mix until sauce is thick.
  13. Serve pan sauce over chicken

I made zucchini noodles to go with this, and it was fantastic.  Enjoy!

Sunday, Cook Day

A number of health-related articles out there will tell you that the secret to staying on a healthy diet is preparation.  Like many people, when I’m tired or stressed, my resolve to eat healthy foods is definitely tested, and having a plan in place for these situations helps immensely.  That means having readily available healthy and satisfying meals in the fridge or freezer, ready to eat with minimal prep.

If you’ve taken a look at some Paleo recipes, you’ll find something common among them – there are a LOT of vegetables and require a lot of chopping, slicing, sauteeing, etc.   This adds up to a lot of time and effort, and can be quite daunting when facing the prospect of a meal like this after a long day at work, or worse, when you’ve had to work late and you’re starving already.  So enter Sunday, Cook Day.

I tend to be routine-oriented already, so Sunday is already my day for weekly chores like laundry and grocery shopping.  Now in addition to these weekly activities, I always make 2-3 dishes that are fridge/freezer friendly and can be portioned out over the week for packed lunches or quick dinners.

First I start with 2 lbs of bacon cooked and cooled on paper towels.  This bacon is then put in a gallon ziploc and used for breakfasts and other dishes that need crumbled bacon during the week.  E.J.’s also been known to grab a piece or two for a snack if our eating schedule gets off.

Soups are also great for this – I’ve made a butternut squash soup several times now (which freezes well too) and I’ve got a chili recipe that I’ve created that we also make regularly now when it’s still cold outside (I’ll post that recipe sometime this week).  Casseroles, like the Tex-Mex Casserole that E.J. likes so much are great for this as are things like meatloaf, meatballs, or smoked ribs.

While it’s fair to say that my Sundays are a lot less restful than they used to be, the extra standing and moving required is actually a good way for me to get exercise in without running so my knees can take a break.  Plus, the better I eat, the more energy I have, so I’m looking for something active to do more than I used to anyway.

 

 

It’s the Little Things

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So, today the scale and I are not really on speaking terms.  So instead of focusing on my frustration I’m going to take the opportunity to point out some lovely things about being 50 lbs lighter than I was 6 months ago (so I can remind myself why I’m doing this).  Here goes:

  1. I can shop in almost any store for clothes.  This is the best part about the weightloss so far.  I can walk into any store, find something in my size, and it looks decent.  Maybe not great, but pretty ok.   And then there are the dresses.  I NEVER wore dresses before unless I had to and now I actually wear one to work occasionally.  It feels like pigs should be flying outside my office window.    
  2. I don’t hate pictures of myself anymore.  I can kind of see where the kids are coming from with all this selfie stuff when I don’t hate every picture I take.  Granted there are more flattering angles than others, but generally if I decide to take a picture, there’s at least one or two that I don’t mind looking at.  
  3. I can wear heeled shoes.  Yeah, kind of a weird one, but when you’re heavy, high heels HURT.  I still can’t wear them everyday because my knees don’t like it, but I figure if I wear heels to work a couple of times a week, I’ll get more stable on them eventually.
  4. My thighs don’t rub together anymore.  I know, this one is kinda TMI, but this is a really yucky BPP (big people problem).
  5. My skin is clearer.   Even though I’m nearing 40, I still struggle with facial acne, and I have noticed a significant reduction in acne since the diet change.  I still get a zit from time-to-time, but not the makes-your-whole-face-hurt kind like I used to.
  6. I have way more energy.  It’s been pouring rain the last 2 mornings, so I haven’t been able to do a morning run.  This makes me antsy.  I’ve gotten to the point where I need fresh air and some exercise to feel normal.  What is wrong with me?
  7. I have more confidence.  In almost everything.  Somehow being closer to a normal weight has made me feel way more confident in my thoughts and feelings, or at least in sharing them.  I guess that’s why I’m doing this blog.  I finally feel confident enough to talk about what I’m thinking and feeling, and I think that’s perhaps the biggest benefit of all.

 

Meet George, my Sugar Dragon

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When E.J. and I started our Whole 30, I read a lot about sugar and what it does to our bodies long term.  I guess I always knew that sugar was bad for me, but I always thought it was kind of like caffeine – something that was bad, but not going to kill you long-term.  In fact, growing up, so much emphasis was put on low-fat foods that sugar was considered the lesser of the 2 evils.  But when you start reading about Paleo and Whole 30, there are some things that you’ve observed with your own experiences that just seem to make sense all of a sudden.  Here are some truths I’ve observed personally over my journey:

  • Sugar is everywhere – like, in way more places than you think it should or would be.  Finding any type of processed foods that don’t contain some form of sugar (dextrose, corn starch, corn syrup, cane sugar, etc) is really hard, and requires careful reading of labels.
  • Sugar is addictive – as in cocaine-like addiction. Seriously.
  • Sweet (ANY sweet) feeds the Dragon 

Ok, that last one is really hard to admit until you have actually tried a Whole 30, but I swear it’s true.  ANY sweet, and that means artificial sweeteners, honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and other sweeteners that you can technically have under Paleo & Primal will feed the Dragon.

Call it a sweet tooth, a sugar craving or whatever you like, but Whole 30 introduced me to the term “Sugar Dragon” and I think it’s spot on for me.  And mine is such a monster, I decided to call him George.  George and I have a long and sordid history together, and even when I am able to banish George for short periods of time, he’s always there lurking in the shadows.

This past weekend I was describing our diet to some friends who are starting to dabble in Paleo and were asking questions about sweets.  I explained that the beauty of Paleo is that there is pretty much a Paleo version of any food out there – most are not going to be exact replicas, but often are very tasty in their own right, so they’re easy to transition to.   So of course, I was challenged to make a Paleo chocolate chip cookie… oh hell yes, challenge accepted! (And I had already had a couple of glasses of wine which (duh) also becomes sugar, so I had primed the pump, so to speak)

Good news, I found a Paleo chocolate chip cookie that is absolutely TO DIE FOR.  Bad news, it fed George, and I found myself craving cookies all day the next day.  For me, it seems I can handle sweet better when it’s paired with savory – like honey & mustard glazes or a little balsamic vinegar with pork, but the minute I start having dessert-like sweets, even when made from better sugars than refined sugar, I have to watch out for George.  And George is a beast – I mean dreaming about donuts and waffles bad.   The only cure is to banish the sugars from the diet again for a few days and the cravings go away, but it’s that first 24 hours that is the slippery slope towards going back to my old habits.

Good news again is that I’m getting better at recognizing George and knowing how to tame him when he appears.  You see, while E.J.’s strategy involves restricting temptation as much as possible and trying to have a mindset of NEVER eating certain things again, I’m taking a much more practical approach.  There will be days when I am going to choose to eat something off-diet, or borderline off-diet (like this salted paleo fudge and paleo thin mints which are also really good).  But if I can learn to recognize the ledge and step back from it rather than assume I’m already falling and I might as well hit the ground, then I’m just that much closer to a happier, healthier me (both mentally and physically).

I may not ever be able to slay George completely, but maybe he and I can learn to live together with a healthy mutual respect.